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Reply to "Behavioral Intervention Plans"

Whew.... I think there are many challenges with BIPs.  It is a systemic problem - and like the students, it isn't because the adults "won't" change, it is because they don't have the skills/tools.

Missing from most BIPs is the framework of how the behavior is code - it is communication. Unfortunately, most of our country is firmly entrenched in a theory of behavior that, in my belief system, blames the student. They are "avoiding work" or "seeking attention."  We can/could reframe this and make it more human. In our model, behavior is aimed toward a sense of safety, connection or significance: basic human desires/needs.  When we reframe behavior through that lens (based on the work of Adler and Dreikurs) BIP discussions become a platform for shifting the environment in a way that is helpful not hurtful. This cannot be permissive, but must make space for the needs of the student, the educator and the community.

It begins with a deep look at the student's strengths. What are they good at? What are their connections, their support systems?

Then a look at their skills? How do they engage with the sensory world? How do they self-regulate so that their social brain (dorsal parasympathetic system) be activated? What skills are missing? What opportunities do they have to contribute  in a socially useful way and do they have the scaffolded skills to be successful? What is their "private logic" around safety/belonging/significance (eg: I belong when I'm the center of attention, I count when I'm the boss/you can't make me, I hurt so I'll hurt others, I'll never make it so I give up...)  How can we build skills to offer more socially useful behaviors to meet the basic needs?

Then, and only then, do you have an opportunity to brainstorm tools for the adults and the student that will lead to learning and collaboration instead of compliance/obedience and more trauma.  Tools often used include:

- Teaching about the brain (student and whole class)

- Regular self regulation/mindfulness activities (whole class) every 20-30 minutes (after they are taught these "resets" can be done in 30-60 seconds)

- Building relationships with the teacher and other people in the building

- Using time in

- Support for missing academic skills (the stress of not knowing can be very de-regulating)

- Regular opportunities to contribute

- Specific skill building (eg pre-teaching SEL lessons and offering student the opportunity to co-teach)

- Teaching repair skills for them and the whole class.

Underneath all of this though is the system. Our current system is about compliance/obedience instead of community. It is about completion (win/lose) instead of collaboration. We know that the brain learns better in community. We are wired that way. Our schools are not.  Shifting this requires a significant and sustained effort as we examine all of our practices. The result is solutions and celebration instead of consequences and rewards. Encouragement instead of praise. Doing with instead of to.  It is a big deal and not easy.

I recommend the Positive Discipline curriculum an the Collaborative Problem Solving models as places to start.

Glad to answer questions and share our experience in 30 schools in Washington making this challenging change in practice.

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